Alternative name: Ring Ousel
- Turdus torquatus
Length 24-27 cm (9-9½ in); weight 90-138 g
- Slim build and long wings.
- Yellow bill, darker above at base and blackish tip.
- White to off-white breast band.
- Thin white margins on secondary feathers and greater coverts, giving a pale wing panel.
- White fringes on body contour feathers, giving a 'scaly' appearance (width of fringes varies regionally; see Subspecies, below).
- Dark brown legs.
- Male black to blackish-brown with a white breast band.
- Female browner with greyish flecks and often duller breast band.
- Juvenile grey-brown with scaly breast band.
Eurasian Blackbird is similar in a brief appearance, in particular beware leucistic Blackbirds, though these usually lack the pale wing panel and often have additional white patches not shown by Ring Ouzels. Eurasian Blackbird is also dumpier and shorter-winged. Juveniles of both species are very similar, but again the structural differences can help. Subspecies T. t. amicorum approaches Grey-winged Blackbird in wing pattern, though the latter lacks the white breast band.
Breeds in Ireland (rare), northern and western Britain, Scandinavia, northwest Russia (Kola Peninsula), Belgium (Ardennes; rare), the Pyrenees, the Alps and Carpathians, and the Balkans east through Turkey to the Caucasus and Alborz mountains of northern Iran; small numbers also in the Atlas Mountains. Has bred Denmark and the Faroes. Usually above 1300 m altitude in the Caucasus, above 1000 m in the Alps, above 300 m in Britain, above 250 m in southern Scandinavia, and down to near sea level in northern Scandinavia.
Migration through most of the rest of Europe, including on low ground, but even then still seeks out steep slopes on hills if available - in southern England, more often found on downland slopes inland, rather than on the coast like other migrants.
There are three subspecies:
- T. t. torquatus (Northern):
- Darkest subspecies, with males nearly black with minimal scaling on body feathers and narrow secondary fringes.
- T. t. alpestris (Alpine):
- Body feathers with very obvious scaling; secondary fringes also more obvious.
- T. t. amicorum (Caucasian):
- Body feathers as T. t. torquatus; secondary fringes very broad, making a near-solid light grey or white panel.
Breeds in remote, mountainous rocky outcrops, in thinly wooded or open habitats with a few scattered trees. In winter, strongly tied to juniper (Juniperus) woods, where the juniper cones ('berries') are a major food source.
Almost always found on steep slopes, where it uses the contours adeptly to escape predators like Peregrine Falcons with ease; usually only on flat ground on migration when no slopes available. Strongly territorial and generally fairly solitary in summer, but may be found in small loose flocks on migration and in winter.
Its diet includes insects, earthworms and other invertebrates, and from late summer into winter also berries, particularly of rowan and bilberry in late summer, and juniper in autumn and winter.
It builds a cup-shaped nest in bushes or amongst rocks, laying several pale blue eggs, mottled with brown.
Rapid and direct, often steeply up or down slopes. Hops or runs.
Call: a hard, dry "tuk" or "tuk-tuk-tuk", lacking the more metallic chinking tones of Eurasian Blackbird
Song: "tcheru", "tchvi", and "ti-cho-o" repeated several times, an evocative sound of desolate mountain slopes. <flashmp3>Turdus torquatus (song).mp3</flashmp3>
Listen in an external program
- Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2016. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2016, with updates to August 2016. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
- Birdwatchers Pocket Guide ISBN 1-85732-804-3
- Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds 1966
- Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
- BirdForum Opus contributors. (2021) Ring Ouzel. In: BirdForum, the forum for wild birds and birding. Retrieved 16 January 2021 from https://www.birdforum.net/wiki/Ring_Ouzel